Where might you attempt to purchase a bottle of wine from an error-ridden vending machine that won’t release the grape until you dutifully present the proper identification, stare into a camera monitored by a state public employee, and then huff into a blood-alcohol meter, all before finally swiping your credit card and hopefully getting to buy the blasted bottle at a significantly higher cost than anywhere else in the United States? Welcome to William Penn’s Back Woods of Civilization.
In a report issued today, Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner says the state liquor control board’s wine vending machines, a wonderful illustration of what happens when a government monopoly tries to act more like a business, are operating at a loss, costing taxpayers more than $1 million since they were introduced a year ago. “We think the wine kiosk program has failed,” Wagner said at a press conference, “and it needs dramatic, radical changes if the program is going to continue to exist. Reason
Radical changes? Well, how about this for a radical change—why don’t we simply get the state of Pennsylvania out of the frickin alcohol business once and for all? Now how’s that for a brain-bending idea? Pennsylvania has been locked in a temperance time warp since 1934 when the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution repealed prohibition and effectively ended a 14-year ban on the sale of alcohol.
Unfortunately, the same amendment that gave back to Americans the freedom to imbibe also gave states the right to regulate and restrict the sale of spirits anyway they saw fit. And even though the firewater has been flowing freely now for 78 years, the Quaker state still suffers from the heavy-handed hangover of direct government control.
Here in the Keystone state it is illegal to buy a bottle of wine in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Ohio, or Delaware and transport it back across the Pennsylvania border. Crossing the state line to where the wine selection is wider and the nectar prices more economical is a criminal offense in this boo-hoo Blue State of public sector unions. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board employs undercover agents who stake out wine and liquor shops located just across the border close to the Pennsylvania state line. These agents spy out motorists with PA license plates and then alert the state troopers lying in wait on the other side of freedom. When the hapless consumer crosses back into the land of a very unionized Carrie Nation, they’re pulled over to the side of the road where their ill-gotten grapes are confiscated and their poor pockets are picked clean by a hefty fine. Citizens can actually be imprisoned for up to 90 days for buying booze out-of-state.
The government-controlled liquor stores along with their silly wine kiosk program can’t compete with the privately owned and operated outlets in neighboring states. So to keep their customers captive, the booze bureaucrats resort to criminalizing a free market activity. There have been attempts to disband this Soviet style state store system but the union yonks and their political pals in the Democrat party have repeatedly stymied such heroic efforts. Us put upon Pennsylvanians are left to sip the overpriced government grape or go without.
Come on, Governor Corbett. Time to heed the weary whine of Pennsylvania’s spirited connoisseurs: Dump the unions and liberate our libations!